Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why are people dying in Africa?

MOYO Forty years ago, China was poorer than many African countries. Yes, they have money today, but where did that money come from? They built that, they worked very hard to create a situation where they are not dependent on aid.

SOLOMON What do you think has held back Africans?

MOYO I believe it’s largely aid. You get the corruption — historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty — and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship. You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.

Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo and Niall Ferguson

My parents told me the same thing when they came back from a mission to Kenya (though they spent most of it in Tanzania). The places doing the best were those without foreign aid.

They said that Africans were bright, energetic and the equal of any other group on earth, but for what was being done to them in the name of helping them.

It is amazing that there is actually a surplus of food in the world, yet people starve in Africa.

An old book that captures that is:

Malaria Dreams: An African Adventure by Stuart Stevens (Paperback - Jan 13, 1994)

Pick up a copy at your library. (The review below links to a different review than the one quoted -- but one that captures the book well, down to the book's flaws -- and why I recommend getting this book through your library, not buying it.).

From the Inside Flap
Malaria Dreams is a tale of high adventure across Africa, recounted with the wit and humor that delighted readers of Night Train to Turkistan, Stuart Stevens's highly praised first book.

The story begins when a "geologist" friend mentions to Stevens that he has a Land Rover in the Central African Republic which he'd like to get back to Europe. It's only later, when Stevens discovers that half of Africa thinks his friend is a spy and the other half is convinced he's a diamond smuggler, that the intrepid author begins to realize he should have asked a few more questions before leaving home. And then there's the small problem of the Land Rover's seizure by the minister of mines, who has appropriated it as his personal car. It is a new Land Rover. The minister likes it very much.

Three months later, Stevens and his twenty-three-year-old companion (the only woman to ever transfer from Bryn Mawr to the University of Oklahoma) have somehow managed to drive-though not in the ill-fated Land Rover-across the wildest part of Africa, emerging scathed but still alive on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Malaria Dreams takes readers along on close encounters with killer ants in Cameroon, revolutionary soldiers in the middle of Lake Chad (a huge mudhole lacking any water), and strangely frenzied Peace Corps parties in Niger. There's a long search for a functional set of springs in Timbuktu and near disastrous bouts with sickness and automotive malfunctions in the middle of the Sahara.

Through it all, Stevens and his ex-fashion model companion battle the odds, and often each other, to return home to tell this unlikely, highly amusing tale.

"One of the funniest tales of misadventure to come along in quite a while.... Mr. Stevens has a wonderful eye for the curiosities of human behavior, Third World variety; he is witty, but not at the expense of the Africans."--The New Yorker

"Mr. Stevens emerges from the book not only as an engaging, picaresque hero, but also as a clever and observant writer."--The New York Times

"For an...Africa veteran, Stuart Stevens's Malaria Dreams will bring the pleasure of recognition. For all readers it brings much laughter."--The Wall Street Journal

"[Stevens's] depiction of exotic people and locales is often eloquent. And he succinctly limns the opulent and squalid vestiges of colonialism. Thankfully, he survived the adventure with his dry sense of humor intact."--The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"You would have to be out of your mind to go anywhere with Stuart Stevens, but when the travel is only mental, he is the perfect companion: brave, funny, and ever-watchful."--Martin Amis


Papa D said...

"They said that Africans were bright, energetic and the equal of any other group on earth, but for what was being done to them in the name of helping them."

There is SO much of the profound in that sentence, Stephen.

Papa D said...

Stephen, I just want to thank you for your comment on my blog tonight. It made me stop and think, and it brought an interesting epiphany.

Again, thanks.

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